There's nothing better than a good ghost story on Halloween. And in Ironton, the ghost provides a daily photo opportunity — as long as the sun is shining and in the right position in the sky. For the ghost hunter, it's a haunting opportunity.
There are a couple of possible explanations. The ghostly image appears to come from historic Spina Hotel and reflects off the metal building just across the alley. Perhaps it's a reflection of a doll's face in the hotel, built on the heels of a Cuyuna Range mining boom. The hotel is a sentinel to Ironton's past and still has the potential to be there for the city's future. The hotel was built just three years after the first house was constructed in Ironton.
It's easy to imagine spirits at the hotel, which itself harkens back to Ironton's busy past. You can almost hear the sound of music, glasses clinking and laughter coming from the downstairs bar as hotel guests mingled before retiring to their rooms upstairs. One hotel resident, George Plut, uncle of Central Lakes College instructor Joe Plut, lived in the hotel for 30 years. The hotel was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. In a lakes area, few of the landmark hotel survived fire and a dismaying lack of interest in preservation.
In more recent years, the hotel was charmed with the presence of an orange cat named Jimmy, who used to sun himself in one of the main-floor windows. Paul Perpich played in the hotel as a child, long before he had a dental practice office in the hotel.
So whether the ghost is a supernatural daily visitor to Ironton, or a spine-chilling image of an abandoned doll left from the decades past when the hotel was full of life, it's worth a look and a trip along the main drag in Ironton.
Peter Spina built the hotel in 1913 at a cost of $50,000. The 27-room hotel was home to boarders and overnight guests. It closed about 1980. But since then there have been plans swirling about renovating and restoring the building.
In the early 1900s, the hotel sported a restaurant on the main floor, a barber shop and a billiards hall, which became the Spina Bar after Prohibition. The restaurant later moved and the Post Office was added on the building's north end. Miners would cash payroll checks in the Spina Bar, racking up numbers as high as $100,000 worth of checks in a single day.
Twelve upstairs rooms had baths. Other rooms had common baths. Two corner rooms provided balcony suites, which could double as stages for political speeches. For a time, the hotel provided a place for snow birds to find a summer refuge. But financial struggles eventually claimed the hotel's life — at least for a time.
Perhaps the attention the ghostly image near the hotel will help bring attention to a building worthy of keeping and restoring as an homage to Ironton's past — ghosts or not.